Operators and trade groups have welcomed a City of Edinburgh Council plan to bring free wi-fi and improved mobile coverage to the city centre.
The council has agreed to a ten-year concession contract with intechnologyWiFi, a firm specialising in providing wi-fi solutions for towns and cities, which is expected to provide residents and visitors with access to free, high-speed internet connectivity.
In a statement, the council said the new wi-fi network will “encourage residents and visitors to stay longer in the city centre and increase their spend”. City of Edinburgh Council said it expects the network to drive greater footfall in Edinburgh’s city centre and make it easier for tourists to access city information.
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, described the wi-fi initiative as “fantastic news” for visitors to the city.
“It is part of Edinburgh being a world class destination and offers the digital experience that tourists are starting to expect,” he said.
“Giving people more options for getting online can only be viewed as a positive move as it helps visitors explore the city and share their experiences.
“We would envisage such developments being welcomed across the tourism sector.”
Tristan Nesbitt, chair of Edinburgh Hotels Association, also supported the move. “The new free 24/7 wi-fi service across the city centre is great news for visitors and residents alike who will enjoy a range of benefits such as sharing experiences on social media, finding out what’s on or booking restaurants whilst on the go, without having to endure costly roaming charges,” said Nesbitt.
Steve Strachan, deputy general manager at The Rutland Hotel – part of Signature Pub Group, which operates a number of outlets in the capital –said the announcement was “a great story for Edinburgh city centre and great for the tourism industry to promote our festival city”.
Signature Pub Group currently offers free wi-fi in all of its bars, and while Strachan said he couldn’t see the network being a major benefit for The Rutland, he reckons it could encourage more customers to interact with social media “whilst they are out and about”.
“Tourists and customers might be able to use maps, directions, local apps and websites using the free wi-fi and allow them to interact with forums and plan their days out ‘on the hoof’, all of which they can do using their 4G (mobile internet) but now it will be free,” said Strachan.
Councillor Frank Ross said that the wi-fi deal “is great news as everyone will be able to get free access to the latest information on their favourite apps and websites while they are out and about”.
“It will be particularly beneficial for the millions of residents and visitors who enjoy our festivals each year,” he said.
Plans for the installation of the city centre wi-fi network were being finalised as SLTN went to press, with the scheme set to be phased in from this summer. The wi-fi network is being funded by the UK government as part of its Superconnected Cities programme, which saw more than £5 million awarded to the capital.